November 28, 2001
Preparation for Outdoor Winter
Activities Prevents Injury, Says the American Chiropractic Association
- When snow, ice and frigid weather blast into town, watch out, says the
American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Winter recreational activities and
chores can pose problems for the outdoor enthusiast whose body is not in
condition. Winter sports like skating, skiing, and sledding can cause
painful muscle spasms, strains or tears if you're not in shape. Even
shoveling snow the wrong way, clambering awkwardly over snow banks, slipping
on sidewalks and wearing the wrong kinds of clothing can all pose the
potential for spasms, strains and sprains.
Simply walking outside in the freezing weather without layers of warm
clothing can intensify older joint problems and cause a great deal of pain.
Preparation for an outdoor winter activity, including conditioning the areas
of the body that are most vulnerable, can help avoid injury and costly
health care bills.
"Simply put, warming up is essential," says ACA-sponsored Olympic
speedskater Derek Parra, gold medal winner in the 1500 meters at last
weekend's World Cup event in the Netherlands. "In fact, when pressed for
time, it's better to shorten the length of your workout and keep a good
warm-up than to skip the warm-up and dive right into the workout. Skipping
your warm-up is the best way to get hurt." Parra, the United States' best
chance for a gold medal in speedskating at the upcoming Winter Olympics in
Salt Lake City, UT, adds that, "You can complete a good warm-up in 15-20
minutes. And believe me, it will make your workout more pleasant and safe."
Derek Parra and the ACA suggest that you start with some light aerobic
activity (jogging, biking, fast walking), for about 7-10 minutes. Then
follow these tips to help you fight back the winter weather:
* Skiing -- do 10 to 15 squats. Stand with your legs a shoulder's width
apart, knees aligned over your feet. Slowly lower your buttocks as you bend
your knees over your feet. Stand up straight again.
* Skating -- do several lunges. Take a moderately advanced step with one
foot. Let your back knee come down to the floor while keeping your shoulders
in position over your hips. Repeat the process with your other foot.
* Sledding/tobogganing -- do knee-to-chest stretches to fight compression
injuries caused by repetitive bouncing over the snow. Either sitting or
lying on your back, pull your knees to your chest and hold for up to 30
* Don't forget cool-down stretching for all of these sports -- At the bottom
of the sledding hill, for instance, before trudging back up, do some more
knees-to-chest stretches, or repetitive squatting movements to restore
Shoveling snow can also wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal system. The ACA
suggests the following tips for exercise of the snow shoveling variety.
* If you must shovel snow, be careful. Listen to weather forecasts so you
can rise early and have time to shovel before work.
* Layer clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible.
* Do some warm-up stretching before you grab that shovel.
* When you do shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Don't try to throw it.
Walk it to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.
* Bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and
arms do the work, not your back.
* Take frequent rest breaks to take the strain off your muscles. A fatigued
body asks for injury.
* Stop if you feel chest pain, or get really tired or have shortness of
breath. You may need immediate professional help.
After any of these activities, if you are sore, apply an ice bag to the
affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours. Repeat
a couple of times each day over the next day or two.
If you continue to feel soreness, pain or strain after following these tips,
it may be time to visit a doctor of chiropractic. "I've always believed in
chiropractic care," says Parra. "I've used a lot of other treatments
for injuries and pain, but the problem doesn't get fixed until I go to a
doctor of chiropractic."